Picked this book up on one of my regular weekly Thursday comic book runs to my local 7-11. It was racked over in he magazine section rather than on the spinner rack due to its huge size. And I quite liked the cover image on it–so much so that I copied it, and did a decent enough job that I displayed the result on a bulleting board in my room for several years. This was another Treasury Edition containing oversized reprints of classic stories from the past. And while I wasn’t the biggest Hulk fan in the world quite yet, I liked the character enough and old stories enough to drop a buck and a half on it.
There were four stories to be found within this issue, drawn from slightly different moments in the Hulk’s long publishing career. The first one was more or less contemporaneous with where the MARVEL SUPER-HEROES monthly reprints of the Hulk’s adventures was, so getting into it was straightforward. It was a Roy Thomas and Herb Trimpe production–Roy having just replaced his mentor Stan Lee as the writer of the series. In typical Roy fashion, he put the Hulk up against a character inspired by the golden age Heap (and Theodore Sturgeon’s prose story “It” as well), the Glob. The Glob was a swamp creature, similar to the Man-Thing and the Swamp Thing who would soon make their appearances. And like them, he wasn’t all bad, giving up his strange existence to help the Hulk save the imperiled Betty Ross. That’s also a really cool opening splash page, even more so at the oversized dimensions of this book.
The second story in this book is interesting in that it combines the artistic talents of the two creators best associated with the character throughout the 1970s; Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema, who here inks Trimpe’s pencils. It’s a bit of a strange look, to be honest, a combination that isn’t as strong as the sum of its parts. This was also the second part of a two-parter, but the reprint editor correctly sussed out that it could be read without the introductory chapter and still make sense. It’s a very by-the-numbers Hulk tale where, in the obscure European country of Morvania, the Hulk is convinced by a little girl (who views him as the legend of the Golem come to life) to intercede on the part of the downtrodden peasants to help them overthrow the dictator Draxon. There’s the typical super-weaponry and over-the-top bombastic performance on the part of the villain, but it’s not enough to stop the Hulk–who, in the end, turns down the position of King of Morvania (and what a story THAT might have been!) because he only got involved to make the little girl happy.
The third story in the issue was the one that was the most memorable to me, both thanks to its surprise guest stars and also perhaps because it was helmed not by Ryo again, but rather Archie Goodwin, who is remembered as one of the finest writers and editors in the business. The artwork by Herb Trimpe was also the best in the issue, because here Trimpe’s pencils were embellished by master craftsman John Severin. The Trimpe/Severin combination was a winner–really, Severin over anybody looked great, though it was a bit of a waste of Sev’s skills, as he was as good a penciler as he was an inker, though his tastes leaned more to war stories and westerns rather than super heroes, which may be why he was used primarily as an inker on the super hero yarns.
After a bit of preamble cleaning up danglers from the preceding issue, the Hulk gets involved when he sees a group of stereotypical bikers chasing after a woman with green hair across the desert. The Hulk mistakes this woman for his lost love Jarella (even though Jarella was a blonde with green skin) and so he comes crashing down atop the pursuers, scattering them. But he needn’t have bothered. Because the woman is the pre-Polaris Lorna Dane of the X-Men, and she’s come out to this remote area to convince Alex Summers, Havok, to return with her to the team. Havok’s own mutant powers were uncontrollable without his all-black costume, and after a squabble with Iceman in which he almost inadvertently killed the kid, Alex has withdrawn from civilization. Unfortunately for the mutants, the Hulk still thinks Lorna is Jarella, and Alex is forced to suit up again when the Green Goliath makes off with her, thinking he’s protecting her. There’s this great page, seen above, where the Hulk tears the whole side off of a mountain to drop it on Havok’s head–the sort of absurd display of the Hulk’s physical strength that used to be commonplace, and which was pretty impressive. Anyway, Havok is able to save Lorna and decides to go back with her to the X-Men–not that we’d see that happen, since X-MEN was a reprint title when this story first appeared.
The final story in the issue was another Roy Thomas plot, though the final dialogue and copy was provided by Steve Gerber. And again, Herb Trimpe was the artist, combined here with the clean ink line of Sal Trapani. This one also opens up en media res, but a set-up caption is nice enough to tell readers such as myself that last time, the Leader had used his gamma-spawned intellect to commandeer the body of the Rhino in order to take on the Hulk physically. That worked out about as well as you might expect, but in the end, the Rhino and the Hulk were on a rocket ship fired off into space–and that’s where we come in here. This is all simply a way to get the Hulk to Counter-Earth, a world that I was familiar with from some of the earliest FANTASTIC FOUR issues I had read, and on which resided Adam Warlock in those days. Adam had been set up as a sort of super hero hippie god, the Jesus Christ, Superstar of the Marvel Universe, and I’m sure that his guest appearance here was intended to promote his own flagging series.
But Adam doesn’t really put in anything more than a cameo appearance in this tale–his own first major encounter with the Hulk would have to wait for another day. What this story is truly about is the fact that Counter-Earth, having been hand-crafted by the High Evolutionary, possesses duplicates of everybody on the true Earth, albeit counterparts who never gained the super-powers they have in real life. This allows for the Hulk to finally confront Bruce Banner, his alter ego–albeit a Banner who has never heard of the Hulk, who is happily married to Betty Ross with whom he has a son of his own, Bobbie. Along the way, the Hulk gets involved with the High Evolutionary’s New Men, who seek to subjugate the planet for their own ends, and mixes it up with the Rhino some more, before the two intruders wind up back on their ship rocketing towards the real Earth again, nothing meaningful having changed during their brief stop-over.
The inside back cover of the book reproduced the original covers to the stories reprinted in the issue, which was something I adored–i was obsessed with the sources of any reprinted stories so that I could put them into some manner of context. And so, I was bugged big time that the issue number of the Counter-Earth adventure was obscured by a blurb exhorting me to enjoy. I’d have enjoyed it more if you’d put that blurb a bit higher up on the page, folks.